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Old 08-24-2011, 06:51 PM   #1
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Had my ALJ Hearing Today

I'm not quite sure what to think of it. My case is based on the following

Anxiety with agoraphobia and Panic Attacks
PTSD
Depression
Eating Disorder
OCD
Constant neck and back problems from car accidents
Migraine headaches at least once a week
IBS

I first filed in 9/09 with an onset date of 3/08. Their psychiatrist confirmed the above (about the mental disorders), said I had a GAF of 45-50 and actually said in his report that I am not fit to work but I still got the standard 2 denials. When I arrived, I met with my lawyer who told me that I would have a slam dunk case if not for the fact that I have been taking some online courses with the local university. I explained to him that this was a course of treatment recommended by my therapist to help with my depression, feelings of worthlessness, and to get my mind off the constant anxiety and worry. I explained that I have never once stepped foot on campus and I only spend about 1- 1 1/2 hours per day spread out into 30 min increments on schoolwork. I am also registered with the schools disability resource center and for this I get extra time to do assignments and extra time on any tests. He said that regardless, they are going to say that if I can do this that I can work. I asked him how they can expect me to work if I cannot even leave the house on a regular basis and he said that the vocational expert would counter that there are jobs that I could do at home just like I do my schoolwork at home. Really? Cuz before I lost my home, ruined my credit rating, and practically killed myself for being so poor I looked for any such job and there are none. He then told me that the judge might then say that I was disabled from 3/08 to 09/10 which is when I started back at school but then I would just get the back pay and no monthly payments.

Well as if I wasn't nervous and riled up already, after hearing this from the attorney, by the time that I got into the courtroom I spent the first 20 minutes crying and making a fool of myself. There were no tissues in there and no one offered one. I had snot dripping down my face and those awful throat sounds that happen when you are crying. I felt like an idiot! When they finally started questioning me at first I couldn't really talk, but I somehow managed to pull it together. I tried to explain to the judge the difference between what schoolwork is right now and having the pressures of a job. He kept questioning me about my dogs to which I explained that my roommate helps me with daily care such as feeding and she is the one that takes them to the vet when needed. One of my problems is germ phobia and he asked how come I wasn't afraid of their (the dogs) germs. I explained that in my mind it is just different. The dogs don't trigger the OCD for some reason. For example if one of my dogs sneezes in my face I don't worry that I am going to catch the flu from them whereas if a person sneezed anywhere near me I would freak out. Then the vocational expert chimed in and said "that doesn't make sense". REALLY? Are they supposed to chime in like that? Nothing about anxiety or OCD makes sense, that's the nature of the disorder.

Anyway then my lawyer was discussing with the judge about how he could give me just the back pay from 3/08-09/10 OR he could grant me full benefits, OR he could grant me full benefits and then require a re-check in 12 months. The judge was really acting like he wanted to make his decision right then and there but couldn't make up his mind. He then ZEROED in on something that I told my therapist one day about going to the park with my dog. This was over a year ago. The park is directly across the street from my house and it was ONE time. It's not like I go there everyday. I was just TRYING it out. I am TRYING to get better and in order to do that I need to take small steps like that. He then asked the vocational expert if he had anything more to say and he stated something to the effect of " I think she is starting to get better and if you grant her full benefits she might stop trying to get better and just collect payments." That really upset me so when the judge asked if I had anything more to say I told him that I hoped that he would see the fact that I am trying to go to school as evidence that I do not want to be like this forever and that I am actively making an effort at getting better so that I can one day be a productive member of society. I may have said some other things but I don't remember. The judge looked like he was still trying to decide right then and there and then finally said that he wanted to review my file more thoroughly and that he would send the decision in the mail.

I'm so glad it's over but now I am worried that I will get screwed out of benefits from 9/10 on and that I will not get the monthly payments that I desperately need. I am in no condition to work even if I can attend some classes online. If I don't get the monthly payments I will be in bad shape. Now I get to stress for the next 30-60 days which is how long they told me it might take to get my decision.

 
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Old 08-24-2011, 06:59 PM   #2
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Re: Had my ALJ Hearing Today

Well, it sounds like you had quite a trying experience. Don't feel bad at all about getting emotional during your hearing. I think a lot of people end up crying when they have to discuss their disability, and the hearing can be quite stressful.

It seems like judge was really picking you apart. Did the Vocational Expert say he/she thouht their were jobs you could do?

I'm glad you had an attorney there to represent you, and I wish you the best of luck. Hopefully you will get your decision in a timely manner. Please keep us posted!

Last edited by pme; 08-24-2011 at 07:00 PM.

 
Old 08-24-2011, 07:01 PM   #3
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Re: Had my ALJ Hearing Today

The vocational expert did not make any mention of jobs that he thought I could do. The only two times that he spoke were when he made the comment about my dogs and when he made the comment about how he thought that my being granted full benefits would cause me to stop getting better. I thought this was kind of out of line. I mean isn't there job just to make job recommendations, not to comment on the case like that?

 
Old 08-24-2011, 07:03 PM   #4
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Re: Had my ALJ Hearing Today

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Originally Posted by joanne23 View Post
The vocational expert did not make any mention of jobs that he thought I could do. The only two times that he spoke were when he made the comment about my dogs and when he made the comment about how he thought that my being granted full benefits would cause me to stop getting better. I thought this was kind of out of line. I mean isn't there job just to make job recommendations, not to comment on the case like that?
I agree that it seems out of line. I thought the VE is only there to give an opinion as to whether you would be able to perform any jobs, and to list those jobs.

 
Old 08-24-2011, 07:05 PM   #5
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Re: Had my ALJ Hearing Today

The other thing that I was wondering was, when my lawyer told me that they might say that I could work from home. I've never heard of SS implying that someone could work from home. I mean in theory wouldn't they be able to try and get away with saying that about a lot of people who collect SS? I'm sure there are several who would be willing to try it, if it were even a feasible possibility, but lets face it, there are few, if any work from home jobs.

 
Old 08-24-2011, 07:12 PM   #6
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Re: Had my ALJ Hearing Today

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Originally Posted by joanne23 View Post
The other thing that I was wondering was, when my lawyer told me that they might say that I could work from home. I've never heard of SS implying that someone could work from home. I mean in theory wouldn't they be able to try and get away with saying that about a lot of people who collect SS? I'm sure there are several who would be willing to try it, if it were even a feasible possibility, but lets face it, there are few, if any work from home jobs.
That's a good point. I actually tried working from home for 8 months (insurance work) before I applied for disability. It was my last ditch effort at working. I thought it would be less stressful, less demanding. So they couldn't use that one on me, I had already tried it.

 
Old 08-24-2011, 07:27 PM   #7
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Re: Had my ALJ Hearing Today

The judge made some mention about the fact that I used to work in an accounting dept. like implying that I could do accounting from home, but there is no way that I would be able to have the concentration to do that on most days. Not to mention that I have never seen such a job where you can work from home doing this unless you are pretty specialized and already have some kind of "in" with the company. I was just an accounting clerk. All I did was mail bills out and make occasional phone calls. Well, I guess there is nothing more that I can do now other than stress and worry until I get the dreaded letter in the mail......

 
Old 08-24-2011, 07:36 PM   #8
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Re: Had my ALJ Hearing Today

it does seem out of line to me for the ve to make such a comment.... my understanding the ve is there to answer hypothetical questions that the judge ask him about jobs meeting certain criteria and/or your ability to do those jobs.. this is just nuts !
i am sorry you had to go thru that crap.... hopefully the judge will approve you, if he does not, due to the ve statement and the fact the judge did not inquire with the ve like he is supposed to do, you are entitled to file appeal with the appeals council.... what a crock those 2.. i would be a bit upset with the atty for not mentioning the online class thing to you wayyyyyyy sooner (if he knew).. you could have stopped it... all i can say at this point is, i wish you the very best & hope you are approved by the alj.... hugs to you

 
Old 08-25-2011, 05:12 AM   #9
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Re: Had my ALJ Hearing Today

what classes do you take on-line?

 
Old 08-25-2011, 06:20 AM   #10
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Re: Had my ALJ Hearing Today

wow so sorry you had to go through that; I think that's the worst time I've read/heard anyone go through at their hearing.

If they think you can work at home what type of job would that be? working from home takes alot of extra effort and concentration. I had a home based business for 2 years back in 2006; I worked more hours than I did at any of my other jobs and there's no way I could put the effort into it now like I did then.

I really hope they dismiss that and don't start trying to pitch jobs for disabled patients saying we can just work at home w/o fully investigating those jobs nd what it takes.

hang iin there; hopefully you'll get some good news quickly

 
Old 08-25-2011, 07:34 AM   #11
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Re: Had my ALJ Hearing Today

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Originally Posted by sickandtired99 View Post
wow so sorry you had to go through that; I think that's the worst time I've read/heard anyone go through at their hearing.

If they think you can work at home what type of job would that be? working from home takes alot of extra effort and concentration. I had a home based business for 2 years back in 2006; I worked more hours than I did at any of my other jobs and there's no way I could put the effort into it now like I did then.

I really hope they dismiss that and don't start trying to pitch jobs for disabled patients saying we can just work at home w/o fully investigating those jobs nd what it takes.

hang iin there; hopefully you'll get some good news quickly
I completely agree with you about working from home. I did it for several months before applying for SSDI, and I can honestly say I worked harder and more hours than I did when I went to an office. It does require a lot of effort and concentration. I never would have thought so, but it's true.

 
Old 08-25-2011, 11:33 PM   #12
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Re: Had my ALJ Hearing Today

Of course I am totally obsessing about this right now, so I consulted another attorney just for an opinion. I really wanted to know if they could try to say that I could work from home and if what the VE said was appropriate or allowed this is what she told me:

"He is wrong. Thus far, the law does not recognize that there are sufficient jobs in the economy that allow for working from home while not being able to come into the office on demand, when asked. He may want to start to do his homework to prepare for an AC appeal now, if he is so negative. Also, the VE does not comment about you, in particular - if you had the hearing, you will see that the judge asks him about a person with your age, experience and education - and if that person can do XY&Z, are there jobs? And if that person can only do ABC, are there still jobs? IN other words, hypotheticals, of which you do not yet know what capacities the judge WILL find you can do, but he at least now knows from the VE that if certain capacities are held by you, there are jobs and if there are lacking, you can't. I hope your lawyer made sure to ask the VE about additional limitations on that hypothetical person's abilty to have a job, if the judge failed to mention some that are clearly evident from your medical sources.

If one has an at home job and makes $1000+ per month, that would mean they are NOT disabled, since they are working SGA. SGA applies even if it is at home work. But the question is if one can ONLY work from home, does that mean they are not disabled? Are there a "significant number of occupations that are "from home" in existence in the national or regional economy that the person could perform? I don't believe that the SSA has found there to be a significant number at all, much less when you then add in your other limitations that go beyond simply not leaving home...
People who have a physical inability, such as not being able to sit more than 10 min. straight due to leg swelling and hip pain, NO, being at home wouldn't suddenly make them able. But, if there were lots of at home jobs, yes, that would mean the all the phobics who can't leave home but have no other issues, would be able to work. Don't you agree? The point here is,there aren't such jobs, and that is one of the requirements - the judge must be able to find that there are sign. number of jobs, and he must point to the DOT or other acceptable source for such a fact."

I am really HOPING/PRAYING that she is correct, especially about the last sentence that they would have to prove that there are a significant number of work at home jobs to make such an accusation. It's too bad this lawyer is not in my town as I definitely would have preferred her representation! Also, when she talked about what the VE should have done about saying what kinds of jobs he thought I could do, that was never spoken of. Not my atty or the judge asked him this. Ugh, what a disaster!

 
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Old 08-26-2011, 09:30 AM   #13
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Re: Had my ALJ Hearing Today

Hi Joanne,

What you went through is awful!!!! I had my Second ALJ hearing on Tuesday Aug 23rd my case was remanded back to the ALJ from the appeals council back in May. My out come Tuesday was a fully favorable bench decision now I am only waiting for the written confirmation of his oral decision which will probably arrive in the next 10 days or so. at my first AlJ hearing in front of the same judge the VE never said anything to me and stuck only to the questions the judge asked and said how many jobs were available in the local,regional and national economy and what these supposed jobs were. at the hearing Tuesday only the ME testified and he told the judge I was fully disabled as of Dec 2010,the only other person that spoke was my attorney. the judge never asked me anything ,and the new VE was never asked Anything. I really hope you get your benefits. but if you dont The first thing to do is prepare to appeal you case to the Appeals Council, coontact your State's U.S. Senator and ask them to help you. you will have to fax your signature to your u.s. senator authorizing he/she to axcct on your behalf but it is well worth it because an appeal to the appeals council in Virginia can take anywhere from 14 to 30 months to get heard. and thats if they choose to review the decision. most of the time they deny the appeal with out ever reviewing the case or the decision. your U.S senator can make an inquiry and that will expedite the case and get it reviewed at least.My case went like this original ALJ hearing 10/2010 denial 1/2011,Appeal to appeals council 2/2011 ,Call to Barbara Boxer U.S. Senator 02/2011 Senator Boxer 's inquiry 3/2011 Call From appeals council to me 4/2011 ,5/2011 remand and prior decision vacated by appeals council. 6/2011 Attorney hired. 8/2011 fully favorable bench decision. 6 months from start to finish as opposed to a minimum of 14 months without senate intervention. my hearing Tuesday took exactly 12 minutes. you will be in my thoughts and prayers.

 
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